Puerto Rico and the United Nations


Originally published in “Boricuolandia.wordpress.com

According to the United Nations, as of October 2009 there were 16 non-self-governing entities in the world: American Samoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands / Malvinas, Gibraltar, Guam, Montserrat New Caledonia, Pitcairn, Saint Helena, Tokelau,Turks and Caicos Islands, United States Virgin Islands, Western Sahara. These territories remain on the agenda of the United Nations until their status is satisfactorily resolved.

You may probably wonder: why is Puerto Rico off the list? Making the story short, Boricuoland was erased from the list in 1952 after the U.S. decided to redefine its political status to that of a Commonwealth and authorized Puerto Rico to draft and approve its own Constitution. This means that Puerto Rico is internally self-governing- as it is the case with the Netherlands Antilles and the Cook Islands. Nevertheless, many Puerto Ricans still question this special relationship and even consider themselves to be second-class American citizens as they are prohibited from voting in presidential elections, denied voting representation in Congress, and not entitled to receive certain welfare benefits. So, asking a Puerto Rican about his views with respect to the island’s relationship with the United States (are they pro statehood, pro independence or pro Commonwealth) may be like asking Catalans about their relationship with the Kingdom of Spain… the issue of political status is a centuries-old problem and your question may no doubt end up in an endless discussion…

What is Puerto Rico and to what extend is the island really no longer a colony? Do you really believe that its status has been “satisfactorily resolved” ? This UN list, as you can imagine, is quite controversial and many scholars and international leaders also urge for a consensus to clarify this ambiguous status. During the UN General Assembly that took place on October 5th, 2009 (GA/SPD/422) with regards to Decolonization Issues, Cuba (Rodolfo Eliseo Benítez Versón) called on the United States to expedite a process that would allow Puerto Ricans to fully exercise the right to self-determination and independence (Cf. Resolution 1514, XV).

“It took Alaska 92 years to become a state of the Union; the efforts were driven by Alaskans, not the Federal Government. This probably means that the efforts toward any change of status have to be driven by the people of Puerto Rico themselves.” (Carmen Lugo-Lugo, “Nobody’s Colony: The United States, the United Nations and Puerto Rico’s Invisibility”)

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